This day was certainly one of the most eventful days of my life. I never expected rag picking would be so exciting; I really envy the sweeper of my street now!!!
The day started quite contrary to what I had planned. We had a weekend cycle ride to gurgaon and I was supposed to meet my friends at McD, South Ex at 6AM but I found myself still in bed at that time when my alarm finally managed to wake me up. I have something to learn from my Alarm….”Never Quit”!
Hoping to catch them at Radisson hotel on NH-8, I set off on my TREK (cycle) from Dwarka and reached before they could (I’ve got speed, bro!). Incidentally they were having a tea break at IFFCO chowk so covering up a few KMs more to their resting place didn’t sound a bad idea, apparently. But, it was a bad idea because I got a flat tire just 200 mts before I could reach there. It was 7:45 AM and if that wasn’t a reason good enough not to find a cycle repair shop; it was a triple holiday- Ganesh’s b’day, Eid and ..and….9/11 anniversary!!
I thought of going back to Dwarka in a DTC bus but I had little idea of how strict but surprisingly polite the conductors were while rejecting my request to carry my bike along with me.
Till now that puncture had cost me 1 hour n still I was absolutely clueless of what to do until a rikshaw walla guided me to sec 17 market where I could get lucky. Well, I got double lucky, there was a repair kiosk and just next to it, a Girls’ PG !!
While I was whiling away my time, I called Neeraj, someone who was associated with Clean Delhi Drive (CDD) and I came to know that it was going on right under my nose; at IFFCO Chowk. There was no time to lose.
The Clean Delhi Drive was going on in full swing when I reached there.
I sneaked in my bike between two cars hoping that it would be safe there, put on those ‘surgical gloves’ and ……………….(absolutely, I was also blank after that!). I couldn’t see where to start; whether to pick a broom and start sweeping the road or pick up a large black bag and start dumping the filth (mostly gutkha n khaini sachets!) in it or join a group of guys who are already doing the stuff. Well there’s nothing better than ‘narebaazi’ to warm someone up n so I used this tried n tested stratagem; it worked! Slogans like- “meri dilli, meri Yamuna”, meri dilli saaf ho, usme mera haath ho”, “zimmedari kaun lega, ham lenge..ham lenge” really charged me up. Rest was easy, like handpicking the little sachets splattering the road or sweeping murky corners with broom etc. After collecting enough garbage, shouting enough slogans and spreading enough awareness among people who happen to cross IFFCO chowk at that point of time, we moved on. While some hopped into their cars, others on their bikes and a significant others into the metro, I hopped on my TREK!
Now we were at a place which literally represents Delhi, just like Big Ben does for London - Qutub Minar. A nukkad natak was to be staged here which I couldn’t see cuz I was happier being a rag-picker than an audience. Events like Clean Delhi Drive also give you the opportunity to meet some interesting and like minded people, which is always a great experience.
The only thing remaining was the “Concluding Ceremony” at parliament Street, which was supposed to start at 3 PM. It was around 12 noon and everyone knew exactly what they were going to do with those 3 hours except... (U guessed it)...Me. The best possible way to kill time and distract my mind from fatigue was to see Qutub Minar. An old 10 Rs note is all you need! (sorry folks, i didnt have that swanky Rupee symbol!). I could have guessed why I didn’t care to visit it in the past xyz years (where xyz represents my age!); it’s a boring place. Others probably couldn’t notice this subtle truth cuz they were either a couple or a group!! But the place ceased to be boring when I happened to meet this researcher from Berlin Botanical Garden who was in India to give some lecture to DU students. We talked on many things except Botany!
On reason why I call my cycle a byke is – it attracts equal amount of parking charges as any normal motorcycle would! Grabbing a Masal Dosa at a road-side dhaba near Qutub Minar, I quickly made my move towards Parliament Street. But I didn’t have any Water and since I was low on Cash, I didn’t want to spend my money on it (crazy stuff, I know!). So on my way, the office of NCERT came (yeh, the same NCERT, which designed the books we read till 12th) and I got my bottle filled, courtesy, liberal guards!
At Parliament Street, it was a different scene altogether - 3 level barricades and countless policemen. It gave the illusion as if Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (whom everyone calls Guruji) is coming. Children from various schools were present there in large number, telling everyone how serious and enthusiastic they are about such initiatives. NCC cadets, NGO volunteers were few others who were making their presence felt. But the life blood of the event was the volunteers of the Art of Living foundation. Few impressive speakers, most notably – Mr. Giri, and an impressive, educative but at the same time utterly hilarious ‘Nukkad natak’ by the teachers of “The Art of Living” stole the Show. The ceremony concluded with the crowd doing some dance moves on the song written for the occasion which goes like, “aao mil kar saath chale ab, dilli ko ham saaf Karen ab………..”
I accept that although I joined CDD to just have a fun weekend but everything that happened during the day had a much larger impact on me than I expected. I became aware of how indifferent I was before and how much power I have to make a difference, not only in the cleanliness of Delhi but in my own life and in the life of million others.
While making sure that we don’t litter (it would be ironic otherwise – littering on closing ceremony of Clean Delhi Drive!), everyone picked their as well as others’ used water bottles and threw them in the dustbins. It was time to go home but not before tasting another south Indian dish, ‘uttapam’ at a nearby dhaba specializing in South Indian delicacies. With the lyrics of the song and memories of a ‘Sweeping’ day in my mind, I didn’t realize when I reached home. A fantastic weather with intermittent drizzling was just a beautiful add-on!
(PS: here's the route that i happened to follow. cycled around 68 KMs. !!)